I visited Athens 10 days ago to see the Paw Paw Festival and to reunite with friends and to get out of the city. It’s amazing how quickly we slipped back into old mannerisms and old jokes. I was happy to see that distance has done nothing to hurt my best friendships. If anything, the urge to see each other has grown stronger, and we all stayed around long as if we didn’t know the next time we would see the other.
I spent Labor Day with my girlfriend in Asheville, NC. We drove a near-200-mile stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was scenic to be sure, but very quite long. Certainly, the Appalachian mountain range isn’t as dramatic as, say, Big Sur, but the charm and the beauty are there all the same. It is America’s Favorite Drive, after all.
Asheville reminded me a bit of Athens. The place is strewn with beards, tattoos, and 15 (15!) microbreweries. Needless to say, but I dabbled. I fell in love with Asheville’s Southern-but-hip charisma and I encountered it over and over again (happily) at the many bars and restaurants throughout the city. For example, like any good and modern establishment, various restaurant menus made sure to inform me that their meat is free-range, grass-fed, and organic, and so on. Same deal with produce. Take the following description of a meal from a fantastic joint called Tupelo Honey Cafe:
Not Your Mama’s Meatloaf » Your Mama never had Hickory Nut Gap Farm’s hormone-free mountain-raised beef to make her loaf. But we do.
What tickled me was that waiters, themselves locals, were archetypes of your classic straight-talking, a little abrasive but endearing Southerner. When I couldn’t finish my gigantic brunch at Tupelo, my waitress commented on my plate, and with her accent and inflections, she might as well have been calling me pussy. A little bit like Athens, indeed.
I didn’t take many good pictures — I never do — but here’s some that I like.